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What was learned at Internationaux de France

Caption courtesy of FS Evolution

   Photo courtesy of FS Evolution

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Internationaux de France commenced this last weekend in Grenoble, France. This was the second to last Grand Prix stop before the Final in December. Many skaters qualified for the Final this last weekend, while others are left holding their breath until the conclusion of Skate America.

Frustration with IJS increases

The men’s free skate was a reminder of why fans get frustrated and lose interest in figure skating. Javier Fernandez had one of the most brilliant men’s short programs we have seen during the Grand Prix this season. Fernandez was justly rewarded with a 14 point lead over Shoma Uno who finished in second in the short.

Then we turn to the men’s free skate, which was somewhat of a disaster. It seemed like quad after quad ended in a fall. The bright light in the free skate was a phenomenal performance by Uzbekistani Misha Ge. After competing for six seasons as a senior, Misha finally finished on the podium, capturing the bronze medal. Misha did not even have one quad in his program, but he was absolutely captivating. His attention to detail, pointed toes, deep edges and interpretation of the music was everything that we love about figure skating. Sadly, he announced that he will be retiring after this season concludes and this was in fact his last and final Grand Prix event.

Javier Fernandez landed a solid quad toe and quad salchow, but fell on his second quad salchow, turned out of a triple loop, fell on his triple axel, completed a triple lutz and then stepped out of his final triple-triple combination. It was far from flawless. I am a big fan of Javier Fernandez, but it is difficult to see someone perform like that and still win the event.

Shoma Uno wasn’t much better than Javier. Uno fell twice, under-rotated and stepped out of many of his jumps and still wound up winning the silver. Shoma had four quads in his free skate, but he only managed to land one of them cleanly.

It makes sense why the IJS rewards quads and risk-taking, but sometimes, it is difficult to support a system that rewards hot mess performances over beautifully executed performances that have less risk involved. Hopefully with the change of the GOE going from -3 and +3 to -5 and +5 later in 2018, it will help to balance these types of situations. I do wish that this change would have happened this season so that there would be less of a chance of having this type of outcome at the Olympic Games.

Ice Dance continues to heat up

The battle between Virtue and Moire against Papadakis and Cizeron is intensifying. This weekend Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron took a significant step. The team broke their own world record score that they set earlier this month. The latest world record overall score for ice dance is now 201.98, which is 2 points over Virtue and Moir’s highest score. Both of these teams have qualified for the Grand Prix Final, which should make for a very exciting event. These teams just keep pushing each other and the sport of ice dancing forward.

Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates captured the silver medal and have also qualified for the Grand Prix Final. They finished with an overall score of 181.85 after Evan made some mistakes on his twizzles. Slowly but surely it seems like Chock and Bates are drifting away and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donahue are taking their place as the second best American team. How the Grand Prix Final shakes out will help determine the positioning of this team moving forward.

Kaetlyn Osmond opened the door

After winning Skate Canada only a few short weeks ago, hopes were high for Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond. Kaetlyn did not have the best short program, but it was enough to get her into the lead. Osmond started coming unglued in her free skate and she finished with the bronze medal. Russia’s Maria Sotskova claimed the silver and both Kaetlyn and Maria have qualified for the Grand Prix Final.

Kaetlyn’s mediocre performance opened up the door for another young lady to rise to the top. Russia’s new little darling Alina Zagitova moved from fifth in the short to winning the entire event. This felt like a bit of deja vu as she was in fourth in the short at Cup of China and captured the gold there as well after her free skate. It’s clear that Alina’s strength does not lie in her short program and she knows how to rack up the points in the free skate. Zagitova is only fifteen years-old so it is not difficult for her to backload her free skate. You can’t blame her for working the system, but I do think the system is flawed and they need to evaluate if this is really a trend that they want to perpetuate.

Almost an upset

The pairs event almost brought about a major upset, but then fell short. Russia’s Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov were in first after the short with a 4 point lead over French team Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres. Tarasova and Morozov struggled in the free skate as Evgenia fought to stay on her feet on the side-by-side jumps. Their mistakes were quickly adding up and for a moment it looked like James and Cipres might just overtake Russia’s dynamic duo. In the end, the 4 point lead from the short kept Tarasova and Morozov in first and they captured their second Grand Prix gold of the season.

Though Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres settled for the silver, this was still a great step for them. There is still a chance that they will make the Grand Prix Final and with every podium finish they are establishing themselves as a top international pairs team.

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